Holocaust centre condemned for 'curb your inner Hitler' workshop

The half-day diversity and inclusion course aims to explore the leadership traits of Stalin, Hitler and other dictators


A training course run by the Holocaust Centre North has been described as “breathtakingly insulting and historically ignorant” over its suggestion that managers “curb their inner Hitler” in the workplace.

Earlier this month, the Huddersfield-based charity launched a programme designed to teach “modern leaders” to learn from 20th-century dictators how to improve inclusion in the office.

A press release published by the HCN said: “Exploring the leadership traits of Hitler, Stalin and others, as well as the dangers of being a bystander, the half-day course highlights the dangers of ignoring inclusion. 

“It offers a challenging look at equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at a time when cases of toxic workplace culture are rarely out of the headlines.”

According to the press release, Hannah Randall, head of learning at HCN,said: “Participants are shocked to see that some of their leadership traits are similar to dictators. 

“Stalin was an extreme micro-manager and this style is familiar to a lot of people. So too is Hitler’s hands-off and unaccountable approach that relies on his force of personality to get things done. It’s very much the blueprint of populism.”

The workshop, she claimed, “gets people thinking”. 

“We are using extreme scenarios but it serves a dual purpose. It makes people question their leadership style and it makes them confront relatable experiences that some would rather forget,” Randall said.

“So, for example, most people have seen discrimination in their organisation, which is stage three on the ten stages of genocide. A good number of people have seen colleagues not allowed to share their ideas or be valued because they’re a woman and some have seen colleagues wearing a hijab openly mocked and singled out for abuse.”

A spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS), who uncovered the training course, told the JC it was a “crass use of the Holocaust” that should be a red flag to anyone engaging with Shoah education.

“To hold Adolf Hitler — a megalomaniacal genocidal antisemite — up as simply a bad leadership model is offensive, lacking in awareness and an insult to the memories of six million Jewish people who were slaughtered according to his plans,” they said.

Those running HCN, “should examine the appropriateness of using the Holocaust as a way to drum up business for workplace inclusivity training,” they added.

The "curb your inner Hitler" course - which can be delivered in person or online - has been piloted for a year to major businesses and northern councils, HCN say.

Holocaust Centre North director Alessandro Bucci said: “It’s now widely accepted that modern leaders must embrace [Equality, Diversity, Inclusion], and organisations cannot afford to pay lip service to it. 

“By exploring the grey areas of the Holocaust – and recognising that it’s too simple to reduce it to just good and bad guys – we are having real success in getting people to think about how they can create more inclusive workplaces. 

“In the last year alone, allegations of bullying in employment tribunals have risen by 44 per cent to a record high – so there’s clearly a need for a more forceful approach to make people think about what they can do differently.”

LAAS said: “This is opportunistic appropriation at its worst. It is shocking that people who purport to engage in Holocaust education should exploit it in such a clumsy fashion. 

“The Holocaust Centre North has a responsibility to accurately convey the nature of the Holocaust instead of legitimising its trivialisation.”

A spokesperson from Campaign Against Antisemitism said: "This is one of those initiatives where you wonder how on earth anyone could have thought it was a good idea. To compare management approaches to the leadership style of Adolf Hitler is utterly ludicrous. 

“That a 'Holocaust Centre', of all places, thinks it is appropriate to use the Shoah as a metric for conduct in the workplace, is astounding. 

"The promotional material, which urges participants to 'recognise it’s too simple to reduce the Holocaust to just good and bad guys' is breathtakingly insulting and historically ignorant, and the notion that such an appalling insight 'can create more inclusive workplaces' exemplifies how contemporary inclusivity programmes too often leave Jews behind. 

“This training needs an urgent rethink, and we shall be writing to the centre."

The HCN was founded in 2018 by the Holocaust Survivors' Friendship Association, a group of refugees and survivors who have delivered Shoah education since 1996.

The body's permanent exhibition and learning centre is based on the University of Huddersfield's campus, funded by groups including the Association of Jewish Refugees, the Pears Foundation, and the Department for Levelling Up.

Holocaust Centre North director Alessandro Bucci said: "Our equality and training course uses case studies of various 20th century dictatorships to help attendees learn how individuals have historically and unknowingly contributed to racism, violence and extremism.

"It considers how different dictatorships thrived in contexts of populism, violence and lack of accountability before looking at contemporary times, current EDI practice in the workplace and how everyone has a responsibility to promote equality.

"The programme explores how we all have responsibility to become active allies rather than bystanders. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from people who have attended the course.

"They said they valued the opportunity to learn about the Holocaust alongside considering how they could make their organisations more inclusive, accountable and transparent."

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